Herald publisher Allen Funk stepping down from post

EVERETT — Allen Funk, The Herald’s publisher for the last decade, announced Wednesday that he’ll be leaving this month, saying personal issues and the changing business model of newspapers played key roles in his decision.

Funk, who came to The Herald from its owner, The Washington Post Co.,

was advertising director for a short time, general manager for eight years and publisher for the last 10, replacing Larry Hanson.

“This will be difficult for me because all I’ve ever done is work at newspapers,” said Funk, who is the fourth generation of his family to publish a newspaper. “My aspiration was to be a newspaper publisher.”

Chuck Lyons, chief executive of the Post division that includes The Herald, said the company will begin a nationwide search for Funk’s replacement. In the meantime, David Dadisman, Herald general manager, will be in charge of day-to-day operations.

“One very important contribution that Allen made is that he helped keep The Herald true to its community roots,” Lyons said. “He stayed focused on the value it brought to readers, advertisers and community groups. Allen knew what a community publisher was supposed to do and he did it well.”

Funk said he isn’t sure what he will do next, but he knows he will miss working with the community.

“I love this community deeply,” he said. “One of the things that has kept me around are the people here and Snohomish County’s collective wisdom.”

He said helping to shape the The Herald’s opinion pages was one of the most interesting parts of his job. “You had to have an opinion,” he said.

Bob Bolerjack, editor of the editorial pages, said Funk was active in determining the paper’s opinion, but never pulled rank. “He never gave himself an extra vote or overruled the consensus on a decision,” Bolerjack said.

Funk said his youngest daughter has just begun college and he’s in a position “where I can really move anywhere.”

“From the Post’s standpoint, it was a good time to make a change,” he added.

Newspapers are in a period of dramatic change as their readers are aging and many young people are getting their news online. As a result, newspapers are suffering financially as advertising revenue dwindles for print publications and is less lucrative online.

Asked to talk about his accomplishments at The Herald, Funk talked instead about what he hadn’t accomplished.

“One thing I’m leaving unfinished is the transformation from a print franchise to some combination of print and electronic media,” Funk said.

Under Funk, The Herald has worked with a Web-first philosophy in recent years, publishing stories first on Heraldnet.com and working to add more information and context in the newspaper.

Funk suggested that his successor stay connected with the community.

“I always wanted everyone to feel like they could pick up the phone and ask us some tough questions and share what’s on their mind,” he said. “The spirit of that is what I’ve tried to enforce. I don’t like ducking people’s calls.”

He also said the new publisher “has got to work on this evolving business model of newspapers.

“That’s got to be priority one,” he said.

He added that the new model “was my number one source of worry and stress the last four years.”

In recent years, The Herald has taken a number of steps to cut costs.

It has cut the physical size of the paper and reduced the number of pages to lower newsprint costs. It’s reduced its staff. And most recently, it contracted delivery of The Herald to The Seattle Times to lower transportation costs.

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